El Niño Southern Oscillation (1896 to 2016): Quantifying Effects on Winter Precipitation and Temperature in Southwest Ohio, USA


  • Robert W. Ritzi Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Wright State University
  • Lauren M. Roberson Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Wright State University
  • Michael Bottomley Statistical Consulting Center, Wright State University




El Niño Southern Oscillation, Great Miami River Watershed, Precipitation, Midwest, United States, Hydrologic processes


Continental-scale studies of North America suggest that the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) can cause winters to be warmer, with less precipitation, during El Niño conditions and colder, with more precipitation, during La Niña conditions in the Midwest United States. Two sources of historical records of precipitation and temperature in southwest Ohio from 1896 to 2016 were analyzed. Three statistical methodologies were used to test the hypothesis that anomalies in winter temperature and precipitation occurred in relation to ENSO phases. Eighty percent of El Niño winters had below-average winter precipitation; the average anomaly was −5 cm. Precipitation decreased with increase in El Niño strength as measured by the Multivariate ENSO Index (MEI). These results were statistically significant beyond the 95% level. However, variation in MEI only accounted for 3% of the overall variability in winter precipitation. Many of the drier winters on record, including the extrema, occurred during neutral winters. During La Niña winters precipitation was not statistically significantly different from that in neutral winters. Winter temperature was not statistically significantly different during El Niño and La Niña winters within the century of record. The results were consistent between separate analyses of data from the 2 different sources.